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The Devil’s Heart
A diamond, and a deal with the devil…
Francesca D’Oro was just eighteen when darkly sexy Marcos Navarre swept her up the aisle—then fled before the ink on the marriage licence had dried. Marcos might have given Francesca a jewel for her finger, but he stole another: the Devil’s Heart—a dazzling yellow diamond he believed belonged to his family…
Years later Francesca, no longer so youthfully naïve, is determined to reclaim the precious gem! But she’s forgotten that Marcos lives up to the treasure’s name—and dealing with the devil is always dangerous!
Read an Excerpt
“Until morning, mi amor. Juanita will show you to your room.”
A young woman in a starched uniform stood nearby. She curtsied when Francesca looked over at her. Francesca gave her a weary smile, hoping she didn’t look too wild eyed, before turning back to Marcos.
“Please don’t call me that,” she said in a low voice. She had to keep distance between them, had to keep him from addling her with his sleek words and expert touch. She was still far too vulnerable to him, and it shocked her. She’d thought she’d left that girl in the past.
One dark eyebrow arched. “You do not like it? You would prefer Frankie now?”
Francesca pulled her hand away the instant his grip lightened. “No, of course not. But I don’t want you calling me your love either. We both know I am not.”
“Si, we do indeed. And yet there is an appearance to maintain. We are marrying soon.”
Francesca’s heart skipped a beat. Dear God, what had she agreed to? She hadn’t truly realized it until she’d walked into this…this palace.
Jacques, she told herself, she was doing it for Jacques.
“There’s no reason to pretend we care for one another,” she replied. Getting through the next few months would be hard enough. Pretending to feel things for this man was beyond her ability. She’d built a wall after he’d abandoned her so brutally; she didn’t want to breach it ever again.
His expression grew hard. “There is every reason, Francesca. As my wife, there will be many public duties you must perform. I won’t have my reputation suffer simply because you are too spoiled to play the part you’ve agreed to. While you are here, while we are married, you will be happy to be my wife. Comprende?”
Public duties. She would never pull it off. They’d know she was a fraud the instant she entered the room. And Marcos would not help Jacques.
She swayed on her feet before she could lock her knees. It was simply weariness and shock—fear, perhaps—that nearly made her fall. Marcos caught her, sweeping her into his arms and against his chest.
“No, please, it’s all right,” she pleaded. “Put me down.”
He said something in Spanish, something low and dark, then barked out an order to the room in general before striding toward the curving staircase.
“I’m just tired,” she said, hot embarrassment—and something else that contained heat—washing over her at the contact with his body.
She hadn’t been this close to him when they were married, hadn’t felt the power of his arms around her. But oh how she’d wanted to. How she’d dreamed of him sweeping her up just like this and carrying her into their bedroom while she laid her head against his shoulder and breathed in the wonderful scent of his aftershave.
Then he would lower her to the bed, whispering those words mi amor, before stripping her and kissing her and making love to her all night long.
But that was when she was eighteen. Now it was a nightmare to be so close to him. And to feel things she hadn’t felt for a man in almost four years.
He strode up the steps and down a long hall while she clung to him. The maid, Juanita, hurried past him at a run and threw open a door. Marcos carried her inside and over to a low settee that stood beneath a tall window.
Francesca closed her eyes when he set her down, both grateful and disappointed when he was no longer touching her.
When she opened them, Marcos stared down at her. “If you are pregnant with your lover’s child, you had better tell me now.”
She gaped at him, a sharp pain slashing into her heart. She felt like screaming, or laughing, or maybe even crying at the irony of the accusation, but she would do none of those things. She simply bit down on her lip and shook her head. “I’m not,” she finally managed to force out. “I’m exhausted. I need sleep, not an inquisition.”
“Perhaps you would not mind having blood drawn then. To verify.”
Oh how she hated him in that moment. She had half a mind to tell him no, to ask if he’d care to take medical tests for her, but she decided it wasn’t worth the effort. It was a terrible invasion of her privacy, not to mention a hot dagger in her soul, but she only had to think of Jacques in a hospital, getting the best care money could buy.
“Draw all the blood you like. I have nothing to hide.”
“You are shaking,” he said, his brows drawing down as he studied her.
“I’ll stop if you go away.”
The tightness at the edges of his sensual mouth was back. The scar was white, and she knew she must have angered him.
Too bad, because he’d angered her. And hurt her.
“Please just go, Marcos,” she said, holding onto the edges of her composure by a thread. “I don’t want you here.”
He towered over her, six-foot four-inches of angry Latin male. “You may spend this evening alone, remembering your lover, but tomorrow we begin to act like a happy couple. Buenas noches, Senorita. Hasta mañana.”
April 1, 2011